14,000 Interior M. employees fired: Iraq

More than 14,000 employees in Iraq's Interior Ministry have been sacked for failing to respect human rights, the government said on Sunday, rejecting a report by a US panel that accused the police of sectarianism.

14,000 Interior M. employees fired: Iraq
More than 14,000 employees in Iraq's Interior Ministry have been sacked for failing to respect human rights, the government said on Sunday, rejecting a report by a US panel that accused the police of sectarianism.

'The Jones report is incomplete and does not depict the real picture in Iraq,' government spokesman Ali Al Dabbagh said, referring to the assessment of the independent commission headed by General James Jones, the former top US commander in Europe.

The panel recommended that the Iraqi National Police force, widely seen by Iraqis as Shia dominated, should be scrapped and reorganised because of sectarianism within its units that made it 'operationally ineffective'.

It also said corruption and sectarianism were rife in the Interior Ministry, which oversees the police.

The US military in Iraq has said it will study the report and see where it can make adjustments to its police training programme but that it is unlikely to agree to the force being rebuilt from scratch.

Dabbagh defended the performance of Iraq's security forces and said serious efforts were being made to clean up the police, which has long been accused of colluding in sectarian violence against minority Sunni Arabs.

'Until yesterday more than 14,000 members of the Interior Ministry have been removed from their positions because they don't respect human rights or because they are believed linked to militias and armed groups,' he told a news conference in translated remarks.

All nine national police brigade commanders and 17 out of 24 battalion commanders have been sacked and replaced, US and Iraqi officials have said previously.

The Jones report also said the Iraqi army would not be able to operate independently within the next 12-to-18 months.

Dabbagh declined to comment directly on that timeframe but acknowledged Iraq's security forces still needed US military assistance.

Analysts agree the capabilities of Iraq's army, which was rebuilt after the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, have improved, but they are still heavily dependent on the US military for logistical and air support in counterinsurgency operations.

'We think the Iraqi security forces have done a good job. We still need training, we still need support from the multi-national forces,' Dabbagh said.

'When things get better, then the Iraqi government will be in a position to talk about a timetable' for a US troop withdrawal, he said.

There are 168,000 US troops in Iraq as part of US President George W. Bush's 'surge' strategy to quell sectarian violence and give Iraq's leaders time to reconcile the country's warring Shia and Sunni Arab sects.

Training Iraq's security forces to take over more combat duties from US forces is a prerequisite for starting the process of withdrawing US troops.

Reuters
Last Mod: 09 Eylül 2007, 18:57
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